The conversations medical providers, community leaders, and individuals have surrounding HIV and AIDS are often focused on men, and with good reason – men who have sex with men (MSM) are the (opens in a new tab) for HIV infection, and the gay community has been uniquely affected by the AIDS epidemic that began in 1981. However, March 10th is (opens in a new tab), and it’s important to discuss the ways in which women of all walks of life can be at risk for HIV infection
At , we want women to understand the risks they face for HIV, and to know that there are options for PrEP HIV prevention medication that can protect women as well as men. Here are some of the reasons why women should be just as aware of HIV as anyone else:
Can Women Get HIV Vaginally? The Answer is Yes
The ways people have sex are as varied as people themselves. Sex can involve a range of body parts and actions, but the conversation surrounding HIV often revolves around sex between cisgender men, most commonly anal sex. What can be lost in those conversations is that the vagina (opens in a new tab) during an encounter with an HIV-positive partner, especially under a certain set of circumstances.
Vaginal tissue creates a wide surface area, is soft and prone to tear, and often holds semen for an extended period of time, creating more opportunities for bodily fluid exchange. People with vaginas are also at a higher risk for HIV infection if their tissues have been compromised by yeast infections, human papillomavirus (HPV), or other genital infections. If you’re a woman with a vagina whose partner or partners are HIV-positive, or you’re having sex with multiple people whose status is unclear, you should be on Truvada PrEP for women, which is FDA approved to protect those who have vaginal sex from HIV infection.
Sexually-Active Trans Women Need HIV Prevention
Whether you’re a woman with a penis or you’ve had bottom surgery, if you’re a transgender woman, you may be at a higher risk than other women for HIV infection. In , we discussed all the reasons why trans women should consider using PrEP, including risk factors such as increased participation in sex work and a higher likelihood of having sex with HIV-positive partners within the LGBTQ community. PrEP can protect trans women during any type of sex, and if you’re sexually active and you’re not taking it daily, now is the time to start.
There Are Ways You Can Get HIV Besides Sex
If you’re a woman who uses intravenous drugs, you’re also a member of a group that is particularly at risk for HIV infection. While HIV is often discussed as a sexually-transmitted infection, it can be transmitted through any contact with an HIV-positive person’s bodily fluids, meaning that if you use a needle with someone’s blood on it, you could become infected yourself. The CDC finds that sharing syringes is more common among young people, with (opens in a new tab) reporting they had shared needles with others in a 2018 study. Always be sure to use a clean syringe, and if you inject drugs on a regular basis without access to fresh needles, consider going on a daily regimen of PrEP, which can also protect against this mode of infection.
Additionally, HIV can be transferred from a mother to a baby during pregnancy and through breastfeeding. This type of transmission is called perinatal transmission, or “mother-to-child” transmission. PrEP should not be taken while pregnant or planning to become pregnant – however, if you’d like children and see pregnancy in your future, you may consider being extra vigilant about your potential exposure to HIV. If you’re pregnant and concerned about your exposure to HIV, it’s important to get tested as soon as possible so you can begin treatment and preventative measures can be taken by your medical providers.
Whether you’re a woman who is active in sex work, seeing someone who is HIV positive, using intravenous drugs, or whatever your circumstances are, PrEP can grant you the peace of mind you deserve to have sex and live life without worrying about HIV infection. makes it easy for people of all genders to receive your PrEP online, and our discreet packaging can be shipped anywhere in the country. We’ll send you an at-home STI test, then you’ll be contacted virtually by a real HIV specialist to discuss your treatment plan.